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Know what gas should go in your lawnmower, leaf blower

| Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 9:24 a.m.
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Pouring gasoline into the tank of diesel lawn mower. All potential trademarks are removed.
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repairing lawn mower engine

If only it were this simple when it comes to lawnmowers : gas it up, use it, put it away... repeat those steps the next time.

Easy, sure. But not simple.

Ethanol has complicated the lawn-mowing life.

And if you haven't been paying attention, you'll want to start taking a closer look immediately.

Within the last decade, the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] mandated the use of ethanol in gasoline. This was the EPA's attempt to create fuel more friendly to the environment.

As a result, most gasoline sold at the pump consists of 10-percent ethanol. (An exception is the Midwest, where gas can be comprised of 15-percent ethanol.)

The ethanol-laced gas is fine for vehicles.

It's not so great for small engines. Think along the lines of lawnmowers, snow blowers, and trimmers , just to name a few such tools many people own.

"What happens is the ethanol draws in water if it sits for any amount of time at all," says Jeff Sankey, owner of Penn Hills Rental . "That corrodes metal parts like carburetors, destroys plastic and rubber, and makes it hard to start your equipment."

Basically, gas with ethanol expires.

The experienced staff at Penn Hills Rental warns that expiring gasoline is not a homeowner's best friend.

Most people drive often enough that gas in their vehicles is cycled through before it expires. However, that's not so true with small-engine equipment.

Snow blowers are an example of machines that cannot make enough use of ethanol gas. People clear snow as needed. The unpredictability of snowfall lends to people leaving fuel in the blower's tank.

So, what if the winter weather breaks before all that fuel is consumed?

"If your snow blower has been sitting with ethanol gas in it all summer, it's probably not going to start this winter," Sankey says.

As the ethanol gas in the blower collects moisture, components slowly degrade. For this reason, Penn Hills Rental recommends using treated fuel, emptying the tanks, running the gas out of all blowers (snow and leaves) at the end of each season. Same goes for lawnmowers.

To leave ethanol gas in a small-engine machine is to invite problems. A couple of key precautions should be considered to prevent problems.

Treat the Gas

Infuse small-engine machines with an ethanol fuel stabilizer. The additives will prevent ethanol from separating from the gas. The separation process is when moisture begins to damage parts.

"You'll see what almost look like flakes or calcium deposits," Sankey says.

Additives also prevent the buildup of what almost looks like a varnish that clogs hoses and small ports.

Buy Different Gas

Ethanol-free gasoline can be purchased. It should be for the small-engine machines.

Available in retail stores, the ethanol-free gas is more expensive than what can be purchased at the pump. But it doesn't deteriorate, which leads to savings. Also, the ethanol-free gas is kinder to the smaller engines.

"If you don't go with a stabilizer or an ethanol-free fuel, you're probably going to need to get your carburetor cleaned or even replaced, a lot," Sankey says.

Penn Hills Rental has serviced Western Pennsylvania for over 30 years. Located at 11125 Frankstown Road in Penn Hills, the store is open weekdays until 5 p.m., and Saturdays until 3 p.m., through October. Call (412) 242-6777.

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